Who Are the NBA’s Most Efficient Role Players?
The NBA is a star-studded game, but not every impact player plays more than 35 minutes per game and has his name on the marquee. Some players impact the game in smaller roles and in smaller minutes, sometimes producing elite per-minute numbers.
Which players are making the most impact in limited minutes this year?
To gauge this efficiency, we will turn to our nERD metric. To clarify, numberFire’s nERD metric measures how many wins a player would add to a team full of league-average players over the course of a season if he started for them. Our nF Efficiency rating measures point differential with a player as a starter.
So, who are the best sub-25 minutes per game guys in the Association?
Point Guard: Cory Joseph, San Antonio Spurs - During the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Joseph played pretty poorly. He averaged just more than 13 minutes per game, registered a -1.3 and 0.3 nERD, and a -3.0 and 0.6 Efficiency rating, respectively. This year, he has increased his playing time to nearly 22 minutes per game, has so far at a career-best nERD (3.2), nF Efficiency rating (1.6), PER (15.4), and Win Shares (3.7). Joseph, now in his fourth season, has shown he can be a solid contributor off the bench for a contending team.
Shooting Guard: Louis Williams, Toronto Raptors - After spending the last two years with Atlanta, Lou Williams signed with the Toronto Raptors to give them some scoring off the bench. He has certainly exceeded expectations. In just under 25 minutes per game, Williams has a registered a nERD of 5.4 and an Efficiency Rating of 2.2 this season, both of which are his highest since 2012 and second highest of his career. Per 36 minutes, Williams is scoring a career-high 22.1 points per game, and his PER of 19.7 and True Shooting Percentage of .561 are the second-best of his career.
Small Forward: Nikola Mirotic, Chicago Bulls - In just his first NBA season, Mirotic has appeared in 59 games and averages 17.1 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls. He averages 15.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, which are slightly down from his historic per-36 pace, but he is still registering a 3.9 nERD and a 2.2 Efficiency rating. Also, Mirotic’s Win Shares per 48 of .158 and PER of 16.0 are both above average.
Power Forward: Brandan Wright, Phoenix Suns - After starting the season with the Dallas Mavericks, Wright has been traded twice already this season, finally ending up with the Phoenix Suns with whom he can provide some unprecedented bench production. Playing just 17.1 minutes per game, Wright has registered an incredible 7.7 nERD, a 4.7 Efficiency rating, both of which are best among players who play fewer than 25 minutes per game. Wright is currently posting career-highs in both offensive rating at 140 and in Win Shares per 48 at .228.
Center: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz - This was a tough decision to make between Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, but Gobert wins in the end due to the fact that he has played in nearly 30 more games than Whiteside, allowing him to accumulate an impressive nERD score. In Gobert’s first meaningful season, he has appeared in 58 games for the Utah Jazz, playing 22.6 minutes per game but is still vastly underrated. Gobert’s nERD of 7.1 and Efficiency rating of 3.1 rank 13th and 11th in the NBA, respectively. Also, Gobert is an incredible rim protector, leading the NBA in block percentage at 8.2%.
Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas, Boston Celtics - I’m kind of cheating here because Thomas plays 25.9 minutes per game, but that’s why he’s on the second team. Just recently traded to the Boston Celtics, Thomas has had a solid year, shooting a career high 38.6% from three-point range and averaging 22 points per-36 minutes. He’s currently posting career highs in Win Shares per 48 at .161, True Shooting Percentage at .580, nERD at 3.8, and nF Efficiency at 1.7.
Shooting Guard: Anthony Morrow, Oklahoma City Thunder - Always known as a great three-point shooter, Morrow has played well with the OKC Thunder this season, appearing in 51 games and playing 23.7 minutes per game. After registering negative nERD scores his first five seasons, Morrow currently has a nERD of 3.2 this season with an Efficiency rating of 1.5, by far his best season as a pro. Also, he is posting career bests in Win Shares per 48 minutes at .137, Offensive Rating of 119, and Defensive Rating of 107.
Small Forward: Jared Dudley, Milwaukee Bucks - In his first year with the Milwaukee Bucks, Dudley has appeared in 58 games, playing 24.1 minutes per game. Dudley is on pace for a career-best in Win Shares per 48 minutes this season at .142 and has registered a solid nERD of 3.8 and Efficiency rating of 1.5. Also, Dudley’s True Shooting Percentage of .599 is the second-best of his career while his Defensive Rating of 104 is a career-best.
Power Forward: Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers - In his fifth season in the NBA and first with the Los Angeles Lakers, Davis has appeared in 57 games and averages 24.2 minutes per game. He has played well in limited minutes, posting a career best in PER with 19.5 and Win Shares with 4.7. According to numberFire’s metrics, Davis has registered a 4.8 nERD and 2.0 Efficiency rating. Davis averages 12.2 points per 36 minutes while shooting a career-high 59.3% from the field and grabbing 11.2 rebounds per game, which is also a career-best.
Center: Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat - After being called up from the D-League by the Miami Heat in December, Whiteside has been a terror in the paint. For the Heat, Whiteside has appeared in 31 games, averaging 21.6 minutes per game. Per-36 minutes, Whiteside averages 17.7 points and 16.0 rebounds! Also, his block percentage of 9.6% would lead the league if he had registered enough minutes. The metrics from numberFire love Whiteside as well, as his Efficiency Rating of 4.8 ranks second among all centers, and his nERD of 5.5 is quite impressive.